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Full text of "My Country And My People"

34      MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

effect which, however it was modified in the following dynasties,
maintained down to 1905 an open door for all to rise from
poverty to power and fame. While the tests were necessarily
somewhat mechanical in nature, and were not devised to
attract real genius, they were suitable for selecting talent, and
might be regarded as intelligence tests. Such a system made
possible a constant infiltration of talent from the country to
the cities, thereby making up for the loss of racial vigour in the
upper classes and maintaining a cycle of internal regeneration
so much needed for social health. Viewed across the centuries,
it must have had a selective effect on the quality of the ruling
class that made for social stability.

What seems still more important is the fact that the ruling
class not only came from the country but also returned to the
country, as the rural mode of life was always regarded as the
ideal. This rural ideal in art, philosophy and life, so deeply
imbedded in the Chinese general consciousness, must account
in a large measure for the racial health to-day. Did the creators
of the Chinese pattern of life do more wisely than they knew in
maintaining a level between civilization and the primitive
habits of living? Was it their sound instinct which guided them
to choose the agricultural civilization, to hate mechanical
ingenuity and love the simple ways of life, to invent the com-
forts of life without being enslaved by them, and to preach
from generation to generation in their poetry, painting and
literature the "return to the farm*'?

For to be close to nature is to have physical and moral health.
Man in the country does not degenerate; only man in the cities
does. To scholars and well-to-do families in the cities, per-
sistently the call of the good earth comes. The family letters
and instructions of well-known scholars abound in such counsel,
and reveal an important aspect of the Chinese civilization, an
aspect which subtly but'profoundly accounts for its long sur-
vival. I select at random from the extremely precious family
letters of Cheng Panch'iao to his younger brother, letters that
should be counted among the greatest in the world:

The^ house you bought is well-enclosed and indeed suitable
for residence, only I feel the courtyard is too small, and when